Remarks by

H. E. Le Luong Minh, Secretary General of ASEAN

ASEAN Community Building and the Role of the ASCC Council

9th ASCC Council, 23 March 2013, Brunei Darussalam

Your Honorable, Minister Pehin Hazair Abdullah
Excellencies, Ministers and Ambassadors representing ASEAN Member States,
Distinguished Delegates,

1. It is indeed my great pleasure to attend for the first time an ASEAN Socio Cultural Community Council Meeting. Let me first thank His Honorable, Minister Pehin Hazair Abdullah and the Government of Brunei Darussalam for their excellent arrangementsand for their hospitality.

2. I would like to commend the ASCC Council andthe sectoral bodies within the ASCC pillar for all the efforts made and the progress achieved so far in the keyareas of human development, social welfare and protection, social justice and rights, environment sustainability, building an ASEAN identity and narrowing development gaps.

ASEAN Community 2015 and cross-sectoral coordination

3. ‘Community’ as a nation often brings to mind that of ‘people’ and their immediate surroundings. In this regard, the ASCC pillar playsa significant role in realising a people-centred and socially responsible ASEAN Community. The ASCC Councilhas been instrumental ininitiating, facilitating and coordinating ASEAN stakeholders’ collaboration in the key areas.

4. We have been implementing 293 actions out of a total of 339 listed in the ASCC Blueprint. This is indeed encouraging. However, as we are striving to get the ASEAN Community in place by 2015, a lot of challenges, including those in the socio-cultural pillar, remain. There is no room for complacency. The draft “Survey on ASEAN Community Building Efforts” conducted in 2012 did indicate that, in reality, the vision of ASEAN Community 2015 is hampered by the low awareness of ASEAN as a regional body. The knowledge and understanding of a significant number of ASEAN citizens in Member States of ASEAN policies and their potential impacts are far from adequate.

5. Meanwhile, as an objective of the Mid Term Review, we will need to look into the Scorecard of the ASCC Blueprint in the context of ASEAN Community 2015 and analyzing it holistically across the different sectors.It will require our assessment of past achievements and challenges, and recommendpriorities in the next coming years to promote ASEAN not only for the people in cities or the privileged groups, but also for vulnerable and marginalized groups, the people in rural and remote areas, so as to expand the profile of ASEAN and promote broader people-to-people engagement.

6. We will also need a practical approach and effective mechanism to coordinate our efforts through strong regional-national cooperation as well as the identification of cross-cutting issues and cross-sectoral initiatives, including, but not limited to education, environment , health,women, children and youth engagement, disaster management, and culture, which are aimed at raising the level of awareness of ASEAN among its citizens and contributing to our vision of an ASEAN Community by 2015.

Challenges and Resilience

7. The cooperation activities ASEAN has undertaken and the networks we have built within and beyond have given us a strong foundation to face current and future challenges. Thefrequency of occurrence and the intensity of impactsof natural disasters in different parts of ASEAN, the financial crisis raging in Europe since2011 and the volatile Middle Eastsituation have taught us a lesson about the need to maintain ours as a resilient region. Despite the many challenges, ASEAN Member States have learnt that in the face of those adversities, we can only be strong by remaining united.

8. There are other challenges, which to overcome the ASCC Council has an important role to play. These include regional integration and addressing the developmental gaps, mitigating the impacts of climate change, promoting and protecting rights of vulnerable groups such as women, children, elders, persons with disabilities and migrant workers, concluding a regional social protection framework as well as eliminating pandemics. ASEAN has in many instance been able to provide quick assistance to those in need. From post-Nargis relief efforts in Myanmar, those in tackling haze problems, to regional cooperation to contain the spread of the H1N1 virus, we have shown sustained commitment to working together to overcome common challenges. The ASCC Council is in the position to take the lead in this connection.

9. The ASEAN Secretariat will continue to play active roles in supporting and coordinating with Member States to help facilitate and drive the establishment of the ASEAN Community. The provision of the needed technical support to all cooperation activities will have to be enhanced. The Secretariat will also continue to strive to work with Member States and Dialogue Partners to ensure more effective implementation of policies across the socio-cultural pillar, improving the national and regional coordination with a view to ensuring effective performance of our institutions, especially in dealing with cross-cutting issues.
Conclusion:Our People, Our Future Together

10. I am pleased to note that the theme Brunei Darussalam has chosen for this year; ‘Our People, Our Future Together’ focuses on the future and one of its priority areas pertains to youth. It is important that future citizens of every Member State of ASEAN plays a role in building the ASEAN Community.

11. As future leaders of the ASEAN Community, our youth will both sow and reap the fruits of an integrated ASEAN Community.I am encouraged by the various platforms across the different sectors of the ASCC pillar which are dedicated to enhancing interaction among ASEAN’s future generations.
Distinguished Delegates,
12. As we are striving together to realize our vision of an ASEAN Community by December 2015, less than three years away, your leadership, through sharing of ideas, collaborative and coordinatedefforts, active involvement are crucial. The Secretariat will do its upmost to support you in this endeavor.
I thank you !